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Fight to know!

“We are aware of the advantages of the current times we live in. We can buy toys from numerous retailers for example, yet we do not usually consider their chemical composition and possible harmful effects. This campaign reminded me to think twice before I buy a new toy for my child, and to choose smartly”, said one mother during the “Fight to know!” campaign run in Serbia.

The ‘Capacity Building and Strategic Partnerships for Chemicals Safety in the Republic of Serbia’ project falls under the Quick Start Programme managed by UN Environment. It was executed by the United Nations Development Programme and the Ministry for Agriculture and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Serbia between April 2015 and October 2016.

The project has improved the ability of authorities to better manage chemicals, apply legislation and work with civil society, while also raising public awareness. The campaign sought to support consumers’ rights to be informed of the presence of substances of very high concern in articles. A survey was first carried out among retailers, followed by a laboratory analysis of articles purchased.

As a result of these tests, further controls were carried out and articles containing prohibited amounts of phthalates (>0.1%) were removed from the market, given their potential health risks. Their production and distribution was also banned.

Some consumers sent articles back to distributors, who noted how the campaign had also raised awareness among staff, who now encourage shoppers to request information regarding substances of very high concern in order to make safe choices.

Following the campaign, one store-owner – who had sold an article containing a prohibited concentration of phthalates - informed consumers through his web page about the hazards posed by the article and the possibility to return it.

Serbian Helpdesk furthermore received a surge in enquiries from both consumers and traders, with one of the latter asking about the possible presence of substances of very high concern in curlers for notebooks and the rights consumers have to be informed for example.

“This campaign helped expand not only mine, but also my family’s knowledge on safer alternatives, chemical health effects, and pictograms. When purchasing a range of resources for my household, I will pay attention to all information provided to me from the instruction manual, including pictograms,” said Jovanka Nikolic of one of the three consumer associations in Serbia involved in the project.

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